STATE COLLEGE, PA — It’s hard to glean much from a few minutes at the end of a practice, but there was one noteworthy observation Wednesday near the end of Penn State’s workout.
When the first-team offense took the field for a two-minute drill situation, true freshmen Michael Menet and Connor McGovern were lined up at the guard positions. Little about Penn State’s offensive line is settled at this point, and new position coach Matt Limegrover lauded the amount of competition at this point in camp, but Menet and McGovern have clearly impressed.
“I think both Connor and Michael are guys that, mentally, they came in and felt like they were guys that wanted to play right away, and physically they have that ability,” Limegrover said. “The single biggest challenge is just the mental [part]. … “I want to put them in the worst possible scenarios and see how they respond.”
Menet was rated the No. 1 guard in the nation in the Class of 2016 and the No. 2 player in the state of Pennsylvania. McGovern was rated the No. 3 center in the country and the No. 7 player in Pennsylvania. They were Penn State’s top two-rated offensive linemen in the class.
Senior Brian Gaia at center is the best bet for a spot along the line that is set for the season opener Sept. 3 against Kent State. Redshirt junior Andrew Nelson seems certain to start, but could be at either tackle position. Redshirt junior Brendan Mahon was at left tackle Wednesday, with Nelson on the right side.
The two freshmen were stationed next to them, but there’s plenty of competition for those spots, including senior Derek Dowery, redshirt freshman Ryan Bates and senior Wendy Laurent. Then there’s sophomore Noah Beh and senior Paris Palmer as options on the outside, and it’s easy to see why there could still be a lot of moving parts.
But Menet and McGovern, who both enrolled early in January, have clearly practiced their way into the mix for early playing time, and possibly a starting role.
“My freshman year, I remember being wide-eyed and wondering what was going on when I was rolling with the ‘1s’ in my freshman camp,” Nelson said. “That happens for guys who come in and do well early on. They have a long ways to go, but anytime you can play well enough in your first camp to even get reps with the ‘1s’ you’re doing well for yourself as a freshman. Both of those guys are going to be great players. Obviously they have a lot to learn, but they are both great players and have promising futures.”